Vertical Line ペーパーバック – 2016/6/15
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"Vertical Line" is both a book-length prose poem and a modern novel. It also represents a cosmology. At its heart, where life might begin are giant and fearful forms: rock lords and a suffering figure - and light which spreads outwards, touching inner surfaces . . .
I first read Vertical Line in about 1989. I had been exploring the existentialists, Camus, Kafka, and found this little book in a Muswell Hill bookshop. The title caught my eye more than the cover and just brief scan of a few pages told me I wanted it.
To describe this book as ‘existentialist,’ would be unfair, especially since I am not a reductionist, but where to begin in describing it?
The subject is the Vertical Line. The style is prose-poem. The object is a ‘mythical’ – within the realm of the prose – Pit Digger and you constantly feel that you are close to him, indeed I often felt that myself, as the reader, was him. But in searching for the object we are constantly climbing or descending the Vertical Line, what I felt was a line of consciousness, perhaps between left-brain thinking and right, or between the conceptual and the systematic. But in joining the quest you are actually invited to dance in a different space, or, I should say, at a different point; the interface between the exterior world and the interior.
Preston has an almost unique talent for prose-poetry. The text is dense, if you try to understand it literally, but if you allow yourself to glide along the river of sounds and the feelings aroused by your inner voice sounding the words, you will enjoy this trip much more. He doesn’t employ onomatopoeia as much here as he does in Hor – at least I don’t remember it so, but nevertheless it is quite impressionistic, for the want of a better phrase. By ‘impressionistic,’ I mean that the book probably doesn’t make literal sense but the journey certainly does. The author also has the rare ability to develop a theme so far that it actually becomes something else, develops into something new. Thus the prose story is constantly undergoing a process of metamorphosis, and perhaps in that way he takes what Kafka was trying to do a step further. This is dynamic and not ‘framed.’
I happen to know Peter Preston has formal science training and perhaps this enables him to analyse and develop his own work in a way few other writers can. I certainly know that he has been developing a new work, Ecstasy, for at least 20 years and I am sure it will be a masterpiece.
My mention at the beginning of this book’s influence on me needs to be expanded. At the time I was developing a career as a musician. The Book expanded the horizons of my lyric writing and I went on to record my second album, within which you will find a lyric style that I am sure was partly inspired by the Vertical Line. But when I decided to move from music into a career as an author, I am quite sure this book formed one of my main inspirations.
So where to put this book in the pantheon of books? I would have to place it somewhere between Camus and the more impressionistic passages of D. H. Lawrence. That might surprise you, but this has a romantic quality that I associate with Lawrence and Keats. I think it is as least as good as anything either writer wrote. Read this and prepare to be amazed!
Following the narrative, it becomes increasingly necessary to abandon all preconceptions as conventional barriers of space and time break down and in their place a sort of poetic vision takes over. This is both fearsome and beautiful at the same time.
By the end of the book the transformation into a sort of 'other-reality' is complete and the reader is left with a vertiginous sense of having glimpsed a universe that is somehow beyond our own.